Cataract Canyon Rafting Trips
Colorado River Rafting, Cataract Canyon – About This Trip
A Cataract Canyon rafting trip down the Colorado River is synonymous with adventure. Deep in the heart of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park, the mighty Colorado flows through a red rock wonderland and over some of the most awesome cataracts (old-fashioned word for waterfalls!) in the American Southwest. Our oar-powered rafts carry you into the most remote, least-accessible parts of the park, where you can choose to hike into narrow side canyons with cascading streams, along rocky saddles with sweeping views, and near ancient cultural sites. On this iconic river rafting trip, we are privileged to experience both ultimate tranquility and all-out adventure.
Moving quietly at first, the river invites you to embrace the concept of river time as we slide easily past crimson-colored cliffs and orange table-top mesas. The word "Colorado" means "red", this red, the red of the rocks, sand, and (sometimes!) water with which you are surrounded. It's never been so easy to unplug and let go as in these calm waters above the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers.
Once beyond the confluence, however, the river does not rest. Nowhere on its entire course does the Colorado River descend more precipitously than through Cataract Canyon. The roar of the cataracts will lull you to sleep, dance in your dreams, and awaken you the next morning with a different invitation. Time to batten down the hatches and hold on because this is Cataract Canyon whitewater rafting at its best. Over thirty big ones, among them Mile Long, Ben Hurt and the granddaddy of them all, The Big Drop, a succession of three behemoths that will leave you breathless and cheering as the river drops over 30 feet in less than three-quarters of a mile.
Location: Colorado River
Canyonlands National Park
Length: 5–6 Days
Meet At: Green River, Utah 8:00 a.m.
Rating: Intermediate, Advanced
Age Min: 16 (June), 8 (July and August)
- Oar-power—never motorized—lets us move in harmony with the river
- Picturesque sandy beaches and massive, crumbling red cliffs
- Dramatic Colorado Plateau geology
- Float through hard-to-reach corners of Canyonlands National Park
- Opportunities for flat-water inflatable kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding
- Perfect balance of calm water and rapids
Trip Price & Departure Dates
5-Day - Adult - $1,1210
Youth/ Group/ Senior - $1,070
(18 & under) (10 or more) (65 & older)
6-Day - Adult - $1,285
Youth/ Group/ Senior - $1,070
(18 & under) (10 or more) (65 & older)
2020 Trip Dates
5 Day Trip Dates
May 4, 11, 18, 25
June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
July 6, 13
6 Day Trip Dates
July 20, 27
August 3, 10, 17, 24, 31
September 7, 14
The majority of our Cataract Canyon trips launch on the Colorado River just downstream of Moab, Utah. The river flows calmly southwest for 47 miles until it meets the Green, the Colorado's largest tributary, deep in the heart of Canyonlands National Park. The rapids carry us the rest of the way downstream into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Our take-out is at the northern end of Lake Powell, just below the confluence with the Dirty Devil River.
Cataract Canyon trips are true wilderness adventures, and itineraries vary widely depending on weather, the desires of each group, campsite availability, and the need to be courteous to other groups on the river. This is a sample itinerary intended to provide one example of a five-day trip through Cataract. In July and August, we lengthen our Cataract Canyon trips to six days to account for lower river flows.
The night before your trip: please meet at our Green River, Utah, warehouse for an 8:00 p.m. Mountain Time pre-trip meeting. You'll meet your guides, receive your waterproof bags and instructions on how best to pack them, and have time to purchase last minute items from our store (look over our packing checklist for a list of such items). Please consider dropping off any personal beverages (specialty sodas, beer, wine, etc.) at this time so that we can pack them into our coolers.
Day 1: We'll meet you back at our Green River headquarters the next morning at the time determined during the pre-trip meeting. It's a 90-minute ride to the put-in, first east along the base of the Book Cliffs, then south toward Moab. Hop in an inflatable kayak or onto a stand-up paddle board for some exercise, or settle in on a raft. We'll lunch on a sandbar and maybe take a short hike to an exposed petrified wood boneyard. Look up high to wave to visitors at Dead Horse Point State Park.
Day 2: Morning sun makes the walls glow like red gold. Listen for the descending song of the canyon wren, or paddle your stand-up paddle board along the shore in search of otters and great blue herons. The Colorado meanders peacefully in this section. Swim alongside the rafts or lounge under an umbrella; the afternoon may provide the opportunity to hike to thousand-year-old rock structures built by the Fremont Culture. Learn to spot granaries (ancient food storage structures) on the cliff walls as we continue downstream.
Day 3: Today we'll reach the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers, believed by some cultures to be the center of the universe. Swim through the line where the two rivers meet and buckle up your personal flotation device! Rapids are just a few miles ahead. Just below the confluence, enjoy a view of the Doll House, a collection of freestanding, sandstone columns: one of the remotest regions of the Maze District of Canyonlands.
Day 4: Conditions permitting, ambitious hikers may start the day with a hike into the Doll House. Ascend steeply to the canyon rim in the Maze District to explore the red and white red rock formations and prehistoric artifacts. Below, the rapids of Cataract Canyon await. We'll stop and scout a few of the big ones, giving plenty of time for the suspense to build. Hold on for the the Big Drops: Little Niagara and Satan's Gut!
Day 5: After a few last rapids, the water calms again, and the canyon walls rise, smooth and majestic. We're now officially in Lake Powell, although depending on the reservoir level, it may still feel like a river for a long distance. When the reservoir is high, we'll get an assist from our "Seldom Seen" motorboat. We'll float under the Hite Narrows Bridge and pull over just beyond the mouth of the Dirty Devil River. A two-hour drive brings us back to Green River. Our expected time of arrival back at our headquarters is from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.
If you are on a six-day Cataract Canyon trip, you can expect a similar itinerary to this one. However, with lower late-season river flows and an extra day to play, you may take some extra time in the upper canyon exploring artifacts or side canyons and reach the confluence sometime on the fourth day. You may dive into some whitewater rafting on day four but likely will spend that night nestled between mighty rapids in the heart of Cataract Canyon. We'd run the Big Drops on the fifth day and finish up on day six by exploring the upper reaches of Narrow Canyon and the boat-ramp back to the "real" world.
Wilderness river trips are changeable by nature. Please understand that this is only a sample itinerary, intended to give an idea of how your time will be spent on the river. You may have the opportunity to do all of the above activities, or you may have a variety of other memorable and exciting experiences. Holiday's motto is "Go With the Flow", and we encourage you to arrive with an open mind, a flexible attitude, and an appetite for adventure!